When the Earth was Young

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Rock painting was our species’ first artistic adventures, our first celebration of the natural world, maybe our first crucial step into reflective self-consciousness. Tony Hopkins’ extraordinary artistic project, to witness this art from the chalk-hills of England to the shaman caves of South Africa, and then paint the paintings himself, gives a uniquely sympathetic insight into this first flowering of the human imagination.” — Richard Mabey.

For over twenty years, British artist Tony Hopkins has traveled in pursuit of the globe’s most remarkable rock art sites. The result is one of our favorite recent rock art books, Pecked and Painted: Rock Art, from Long Meg to Giant Wallaroo, a wonderfully rich volume full of the author’s photographs, field sketches, finished paintings, and extensive journal entries. Hopkins truly went far and wide in his rock art quest: Britain, Ireland, France, Italy, Scandinavia, Australia, South Africa, Namibia, Sudan, Egypt, and the American Southwest. No two sites were the same, but as Tony Hopkins describes, something universal shines through:

Whatever its meaning when the earth was young, rock art speaks to us now of a time when people lived their lives close to nature, in tune with the rhythm of the earth. It is no coincidence that most rock art is associated with what we think of today as wilderness areas, the far reaches of temporal and spiritual existence, wild landscapes where the past is still visible in the present, where what is most special has to do with the way we respond to nature.

Hopkins’ words perfectly describe why the Land Library has built a 30-year collection of books devoted to prehistoric art. Starting in North America, with volumes such as these:

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But before long, the universal themes mentioned above, led us to seek out rock art volumes that span the globe, such as these:

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The Hunter’s Vision: The Prehistoric Art of Zimbabwe by Peter Garlake.

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along with Jean Clottes’ classic, comprehensive World Rock Art:

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We’ll have a special corner at Buffalo Peaks Ranch dedicated to rock art from across the world. What a shelving party that will be!

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portion of the Great Gallery, Horseshoe Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

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2 thoughts on “When the Earth was Young

  1. Totally enjoy your book summaries, especially these dealing with “early art”.
    On a similar note, the cow bone from the Land Library ranch which I wove, mounted and titled “What a Precious Life this Was” is hanging at the entrance to the current Boulder County Hand Weavers Guild show.

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